The clear and present danger of carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae (CPE) in New Zealand: time for a national response plan

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in general poses a threat to the sustainability of modern healthcare, but a particularly urgent and serious threat is posed by a specific group of antibiotic-resistant bacteria known as carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae (CPE). CPE are resistant to nearly all antibiotics and include common pathogens such as Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae. In New Zealand, the incidence of CPE has increased from three isolates in 2012 to 45 in 2016. The current epidemiology of CPE in New Zealand has similarities with the extended-spectrum beta-lactamase-producing Enterobacteriaceae (ESBL-PE) epidemic in the early 2000s (just before ESBL-PE underwent a non-linear increase in incidence). Although to date in New Zealand, nearly all CPE have been imported from overseas, this situation appears to be changing, with evidence of secondary spread in both households and healthcare facilities over the last year. In this article, we argue that CPE should be regarded as the foremost AMR threat currently facing New Zealand, and highlight the need for a comprehensive national response plan, analogous to plans for other emerging transmissible infections, such as pandemic influenza and Ebola. We also make recommendations about the components of such a plan and advocate that CPE should be recognised as a key priority in New Zealand's national AMR strategy, due to be published in May 2017.